Blog: Only one District 4 Wake school board candidate attends forum
Posted September 15, 2011
Raleigh, N.C. — The third in a series of five Wake County Board of Education candidate forums continued Thursday night at the Walnut Creek Wetland Center in Raleigh.
The forums are sponsored by WakeUp Wake and the League of Women Voters of Wake County.
Thursday's forum was for candidates from District 4, currently represented by Keith Sutton. Sutton has just one challenger, Venita Peyton. Peyton declined to attend the forum, saying it was unfair to hold such an event on a school night when parents have other responsibilities.
Although school board races in Wake County are technically non-partisan on the ballot, this race has become highly politicized after a Republican majority took majority control of the board in 2009. The Wake County Democratic and Republican parties are actively involved in endorsing, supporting and promoting candidates for this election, which will be held Tuesday, Oct. 11.
For more details on all school board candidates visit WRAL's school board elections page.
Because Sutton was the only candidate to attend, the hosts turned it into a community forum instead, allowing audience members to ask questions and dictate the topics.
New Wake County School headquarters:
One person asked why the Wake County central offices were moved to a new leased building in Cary when the school system owns its former building on Wake Forest Road in Raleigh.
Sutton told the audience it was necessary to move to a new space because Wake County schools had outgrown the old building. Sutton also told the group that he regrets moving the offices to Cary and if he could do it again he would have voted to keep the central offices in Raleigh. Sutton assured the group he would look into ways to possibly offer better public transportation to the new site.
Responding to another question, Sutton told the group some of the recent board changes to student discipline and suspension policies will help reduce the number of suspensions and help keep more students in school for less serious offenses.
The new Student Assignment Plan:
Another audience member asked about transportation issues under the newly proposed student assignment plan. Specifically he wanted to know how a student would get to school if his parents chose to send him to a school far from home. Sutton told the group the focus of the plan is on proximity, and most seem to want to pick schools closer to home. He also assured parents that group transportation will be provided for all students, but the final details of transportation are still being worked out.
Sutton was asked if there would be any major changes to the proposed student assignment plan by Superintendent Tony Tata and his task force if his party took majority control of the school board in October.
Sutton said he would not necessarily change the plan, but he would push to change the policy that drives it. In 2009, the current board majority voted to drop the diversity clause of the policy. Sutton says he would push to add that back if he could get the votes.